Maryland legislation authorizes hiring of Equine Medical Director

Posted: Jan. 30, 2017

Legislation authorizing the Maryland Racing Commission to create the position of Equine Medical Director was filed in the House of Delegates Jan. 27, with a companion bill in the Senate expected to be introduced soon.

The position is one of several recommendations that stemmed from a 2013 evaluation of the MRC by the state Department of Legislative Services.

“It has been a top priority of the racing industry since 2013, but there were problems creating and funding the position,” said Alan Foreman, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and general counsel for the Maryland THA. “The industry is taking the bull by the horns to create the position, which would be filled by the racing commission.”

The legislation adds the words Equine Medical Director to a host of positions the MRC can fill statutorily. The position would be funded by the industry using the percentages in place for allocation of casino video lottery terminal revenue: 80% Thoroughbred and 20% Standardbred.

Racetrack licensees and groups that represent owners, trainers and breeders for each breed would share the cost.

“The industry has agreed to collectively fund the position,” Foreman said. “It has industry-wide support and is revenue-neutral for the state. We see no reason why it wouldn’t move quickly.”

If the measure passes and is signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, it would take effect July 1 of this year, though Foreman said the industry would like to have an Equine Medical Director in place by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in late May.

The Department of Legislative Services report noted progress in equine health and safety through adoption of the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Program, which was the impetus for a national program, but said the MRC “could benefit from an Equine Medical Director to ensure compliance with the recently adopted stringent equine testing and drug policies.”

The department also said the position “would provide the MRC with an additional resource to further enhance the safety and welfare of the horses running races in Maryland, as well as providing the jockeys who ride these horses with the confidence that their horse has been observed to be sound enough to be competitive.”

The MRC late last year hired a new state veterinarian, Dr. Elizabeth Daniel, effective Jan. 1.

(Laurel Park photo by Tom LaMarra)